Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

No More Time Outs

Audrey surprised me by reaching a knife this way! Would time outs have stopped her from climbing up here? Doubtful.

I’ve become aware of the trend moving parents away from the now-long-standing discipline of time outs. Just one issue with it is that kids are usually isolated during a time out. And since kids act out when they have a need that’s not being met (in our case it’s more attention they want), putting them in an isolated time out leaves that need unmet, causing more angst and potentially creating the long-term tendency to bottle up feelings.

I have to admit to an early vague sense of unease about the banishment aspect of time outs. That said, I probably would have employed it if we had space in our house. Because I hadn’t taken the time to think through why it was unsettling, and in the back of my mind I figured “Well, this has been the standard advice for a couple of decades now, so there must be something to it.” I mean had to DO something to send my message, right?

As it was, I used time outs during the heaviest spate of the twins’ banging on the windows, biting, throwing, and hitting. The girls had just discovered each behavior and were both engaging in all of them all day, every day, for a couple of weeks. It was exasperating! I sensed I had to put a stop to these dangerous/hurtful behaviors, so I automatically employed the time out method. The girls were only about 15 months old, so this meant that I held them, hands on knees, in the corner for about 40 seconds. Then let them go without any further lecture. (Now I see that I got lucky in not being able to banish them to another room or isolated spot, which likely would have made it more painful. However, any sort of punishment avoids the base need, so it’s a temporary, and even inappropriate, fix.)

They’d always giggle at first, then sometimes start to cry a bit. But here’s a lesson that came quickly and directly because of having twins: while one was in time out, the other wanted to be in time out! So instinctively, I knew that the entire “issue” was that they wanted my attention. The undesirable behaviors were simply the girls’ attempt to get more of ME, but I still used time outs because they had started to work. The girls learned the things they weren’t supposed to do and stopped doing them, in just a couple of weeks.

Now, the norm is that they don’t do those things. But when they are hungry and mom is finishing painting a fence outside their window (“I know you are hungry…I’m almost done…I’ll be right there!”) they start throwing their toys out and, if that doesn’t get me inside, banging on the window! Of course! Because it’s not that they don’t know that it’s disallowed behavior. It’s that, if they need or want me, they simply don’t care! Makes sense, right?

I am so glad this issue came to my attention, because I now realize I give a lot of thought to a lot of things but I hadn’t gotten to thinking over “discipline” techniques yet. And since my main objective is to respect my children, I’d like to find another way to teach them the rules.

The article that I refer to in my first blog post mentions that the French don’t use the word “discipline” the way we do—the author is met with “…you mean educate…?” when she brings it up. And this sort of makes you think. Yes, education is the goal. So how exactly does punishment help the learning process?

I think not using punishment takes more attention from the parents but is likely to yield better results—confident, secure children and then, adults. More time. Just like every issue facing us, kids need tons of our time and attention. And of course it’s not possible to become completely unproductive aside from child-rearing. But with the right amount of attention given them, they’ll go on their merry way for little stretches of time (and yes, I have twins who play together, but many singletons can do this also, and a singleton typically doesn’t brawl with herself either, so it’s a trade-off the way I see it) and those little stretches are what you need to grab…no lollygagging! When you see contentment on their faces, run away and get to journaling, or chopping veggies for dinner, or painting the fence, or reading something! And come back soon with lots of smiles, hugs, and help with that puzzle or book.

I’m going to be looking more into the idea of Positive Discipline (I have this book, actually) and I will share my impressions soon. In the meantime, I have to check out my new knitting book while the babies are asleep!

Here are a couple of articles, the first one is especially helpful:

Timeouts: Good, Bad, or Unnecessary? by Dr. Laura Markham

Positive discipline: Why time-outs don’t work  by Susan Stiffelman

Oops! Too late. They are up. 🙂

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Potty Training Thoughts

The overwhelmingly pervasive advice these days is that you should wait for your kids to “be ready” to potty-train. Among other signs, the “experts” say to wait until the baby can hold her urine a while (you find dry diapers sometimes) and talk all about potty concerns—use the words of potty training—and they cite that “most” kids will train around age 3. Three! Okay, as a mom of kids who are almost 2 I can now actually imagine that…but do I want to wait that long? No way.

Let’s give the kids a little credit, shall we? Most kids of my generation seem to have been trained much closer to age 2. There were jokes about causing “anal retentive personalities” (a Freud theory about the results of negative toilet-training tactics) but in reality, it seems these parents mostly did a great job and didn’t have any more problems than modern folks. In previous centuries, most kids were trained around age 1 and some even earlier, although the trend in some periods was definitely coercive, and that’s not okay.

I may be wrong, but the new advice sort of reeks of diaper industry influence. And I don’t just mean that parents have the luxury of waiting now because of modern disposables (which they do and that’s not bad) but that the diaper makers don’t want us to stop diapering. They make diapers in larger sizes than ever before. Pampers Cruisers come in a size 7, for children 41 lbs. and over. Doesn’t that seem…shocking?

Honestly, America is confusing. There is still a lot of pressure on women who breastfeed to keep it out of sight, and if you breastfeed your baby past age 1 the judgments and criticism start to get very intense (sigh), but diapering up to age 4 is becoming acceptable! A child of 4 can do so many things. There is absolutely no reason he can’t take himself to the bathroom, and really, you owe it to your kid to let him try.

I know…here’s my own judgmental self coming out. But listen, here is what I really think. A child deserves to learn this skill and hygienic responsibility. They can learn it, given a lot of positive parental attention, and that is where the problem often lies, I think—parents don’t want to take the time to do many of the tasks of parenting.

Think about it. We teach our child to feed himself as soon as possible, and even dress himself pretty much as soon as he can give it a go, so why not the same with potty training? Just try it now and then, using positive techniques and a relaxed, fun attitude, and see when the kid picks it up.

I have to admit, there may not be much real harm in waiting until the kid asks you to train him (really…this has been advised!) but why not give them a vote of confidence by showing you believe that they can do this, as they do so many other things? Wouldn’t it create an atmosphere of faith in the child’s abilities? Of confidence in them as individuals? And wouldn’t that translate into good self-esteem for the child?

Now, if it were to fail, of course I wouldn’t advocate pushing. I guess I just I think giving the child the opportunity to help himself in this way is really important. Not to mention, a two-year-old is a lot less stubborn than a three-year-old, I’m told. 😉

Girls loved to sit on the potties at 16 months. Just for fun.

If you’re wondering where we are on potty training, it’s a short story. When I was pregnant, I planned to try Elimination Communication, but then found out I was having two and so we diapered. I introduced potties to the girls and showed them how to sit on them when they were about 10 months old I think. They thought it was fun. Over the next few months, I had a few “naked” mornings where I let them run around and when they’d start to pee, I’d put them on a potty and excitedly tell them they were going “pssst psst!” Well, they love to make the noise, and they associate it with the potty chair for sure, but they were confused when I’d sweep them up and put them on the potty, and their “psst psst” was already completed anyway. Audrey was annoyed that I’d interrupted her playing, even. But Rachel was more intrigued, albeit a bit lost as to what I was doing.

Now they are 21 months and I’ve only still done a few mornings like this, but I’m about to step it up with Rachel. I admit, my hesitation to present more opportunities in the past year has been that I have always wanted to train them both at the same time, but I’m going to do away with that notion for now, if only to save my own sanity. Rachel hates having her diaper changed. Also, she loves to see me pee, and says “psst psst” when I do. Good opportunity to re-introduce, I think. She’s not a huge talker yet, only knows a few words, but I disagree with this “requirement” wholeheartedly. She deserves the chance to try.

If this round of gentle teachings fails, then I will accept that and try again in a few weeks. Lather, rinse, repeat. And then Audrey. Unless she shows interest first, due to not wanting to be left out (a distinct possibility). But I’m committed to making myself available to her for these lessons.

I don’t know yet whether I should try pull-ups, regular old-fashioned training pants, underwear, or none of the above. I’d love to hear stories and suggestions. Got any thoughts about all this?


All-Purpose Cleaning Spray

Today I ran out of my all-purpose cleaner, which by the way is the new trend in cleaning products, allegedly: reduce the number of products you buy to clean your house down to just a few, if not one (as if we needed trendy to make this happen). This makes finding a good all-purpose cleaner that also does glass a top priority, because it will clean most everything in your house but the laundry and the dishes (and it might do those too, I haven’t tried).

Kiwi magazine did a survey of 1000 readers of their top “green” cleaners, and I was pleased to find that those GreenWorks products by Clorox really are “green”— I had my doubts. On closer inspection, it seems the Sierra Club likes them too—their logo is on the bottle. The reason this is cool is that they are in every store, so buying green cleaning spray is officially accessible now. And it does work very well, I might add.

That said, my favorite cleaner is BabyGanics—both the all-purpose and the glass cleaner (Why are they separate though? Just buy the glass cleaner and use it for everything.) I love it because the lavender scent is super yummy, and the 4 chamber sprayer is, like, awesome! Sprays a good volume in one spritz and gets the job done.

But today, I’m out of my cleaner. So I made my own. And I thought I’d share my recipe:

2 tablespoon Dr. Bronner’s magic soap: lavender castille soap
1/2 teaspoon glycerin (there is also vegetable glycerin)
1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol
1-1/2 cups water
12 extra drops lavender essential oil (optional)

I just gave it a try on the babies’ mirror—a  good test as it’s a baby-height mirror in the play area of the living room, covered in baby fingerprints and snot (oh yeah!) It worked great. I figure glass is the ultimate test.

By the way, I use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap for lots of stuff—there is a huge pump bottle of diluted (~ 4:1) Dr. Bronner’s in the shower, which is our body soap. I use it for hand soap, and as backup dish soap too. It comes in other scents, of course, peppermint being the most popular. It’s fully biodegradable so you can use it camping, and super concentrated, so a big bottle will last you many months.

Note 9 months later: In the above recipe, the glycerin helps to keep the alcohol mixed into the water solution. Some people don’t like using rubbing alcohol, which is fine. I make it more often now with vinegar (although I use up to a half cup). But the alcohol mixture above works much better on glass!

Current recipe:

2 tablespoons Dr. Bronner’s
2 teaspoons washing soda
1 teaspoon baking soda
Fill rest of spray bottle with hot tap water, then add:
1/2 cup vinegar (add slowly to avoid froth-over)
10-12 drops lavender essential oil (I just love this stuff!)

I’ve been loving this recipe lately because I’m cleaning a lot more bodily fluids off of things (I know! Ew! Potty training is grand.) and the high vinegar content makes me secure with the disinfectant qualities of the spray. Borax has disinfectant properties too, but the store was out. (I was surprised too.) If I have it, I add a tablespoon or so.

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Smug New Mom Going To Start A Blog | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Smug New Mom Going To Start A Blog | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.

Sharing this humor from The Onion, because yes, I am aware of how many mommy blogs there are, and how boring-slash-pompous they are! But mine is special! 😉

Kidding aside, I started this blog because there are a couple of members of my family that have enjoyed hearing my thoughts and discoveries about parenting, and of course a couple of friends too. This is a public blog,  and I welcome visitors and comments, but I do not expect that the things I say will resonate with everybody, nor do I think I am now an expert in child-rearing. Quite the opposite…I love the new daily challenges and the fact that the main thing I can count on is having my mind changed.

I try to practice self-acceptance while still pushing myself to grow and mature through the experience of respectfully parenting my children.

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Food Wars: Finding Peace Time

My almost-two-year-old girls have (typical to their age I understand) slowly slid from awesome, adventurous tryers of most things, into rather particular and petulant eaters.

I sensed that catering to their whims was probably reinforcing their pickiness, and maybe two weeks ago I somewhat meekly started—at dinner only—a program of offering the girls only what we eat—no special meals just for them. And milk is always offered when they are done eating.

Rachel tucks into some fried rice—with vigor and mad big-fork skills.

Well, I was emboldened after reading an article sent from my dad, which described how French parents give three meals and one late-afternoon snack to their children, to start a four-meal-per-day schedule, which I started last Thursday. I also decided to extend my “take-it-or-leave-it” dinner plan to all four meals. So dinner has remained as it was, where I serve a healthy dinner without thinking about what they like (very much). Breakfast is, and has been, the same for a long time—oatmeal with cinnamon and blueberries. Goes like gangbusters most days. But now “Lunch 1” and “Lunch 2” as I like to think of them (because I offer hearty stuff at each, unlike a “snack”) each consist of 3-4 offerings, which I get ready before they are in the chairs, and show them to the girls as they are seated, telling them that’s what their choices are.

If they reject everything, then mealtime is over. If they throw their spoon, they must eat with their hands, etc. You get the idea. (And if they only eat two orange slices, then I resist the urge to rifle through the fridge for something they like, or hand them an easy snack food.)

I’d been thinking about doing this anyway, to formalize eating and thereby start to institute manners. But the article gave me much more conviction to follow through. So meals now require the girls sit in their high chairs, either in kitchen or dining room, rather than my former “lazy” lunch/snack method of handing them sandwich pieces or forking tofu cubes into their mouths as they play. Or piling some cheese and crackers on the table for them to graze at. (Oh yeah, I did that…often.)

At first, the girls rejected most of dinner as usual—didn’t even try a bite of very delicious lasagna no matter what we tried. But soon they started at least trying more items, especially Rachel. And then, almost a week into the new schedule, they ate broccoli again! And tons of it. They hadn’t eaten broccoli—formerly one of Audrey’s tip-top favorites—for months now, at any meal, probably because there was always the possibility of something more interesting if it was rejected.

That night’s dinner was broiled flounder, broccoli and red potatoes. A hungry Rachel tried the fish immediately—no suspicious eyeballing—but didn’t like it (no problem) and she even tried the potatoes, a food she’s rejected since birth, inexplicably. And she liked the potatoes enough to have maybe six forkfuls. Audrey tried a bite or two of potatoes, wouldn’t try the fish. But both girls saw in the broccoli an old familiar, it seems, so it went down the hatch…in droves!  It seems they were hungry enough to eat what was available. I actually had to run and cook two extra “trees” of broccoli for those maniacs! Rachel was downright scowly with impatience as we tried to cool pieces rapid-fire for her!

It’s been a few more days since that night and both girls are eating so much better than they were with the old system (which was based on the current American mainstream advice of three meals and two snacks) and I am happier and more organized. I haven’t even thought of handing them a cereal bar since I started the new schedule, and here’s why: I can easily, happily make four meals with a few healthy items each. Especially when I am not concerned about whether they eat or not. Before, it seemed like it was always time to think about yet another nosh for them, and it was so exhausting, prepping or thinking about toddler food all day like that, that I’d end up just handing them cereal bars sometimes, or a pile of bunny crackers. When we went out, I’d pack four or five varieties of finger foods, to be sure they liked something. Now I plan to bring one complete meal. And I’ll reserve “snacks” only for an unlikely car breakdown. Oh, I should mention too, that I’ve dispensed with the term “snack” for now as well, as it was causing me to choose cruddier options, I think, because of their “snackiness.”

The new way is working much better, and the girls seem brighter and more interested at mealtimes as well. I am not rigid with the times…if they are having an extra hungry day, I’ll feed them early. But it’s still only four meals each day. I think they like the formality better too. They know the rules (no throwing) when they are in their chairs, and this way I’m not compromising these new manners by feeding them in the living room or wherever. Bonus: they get an attentive, relaxed mother again, who typically eats with them and goofs around a little. I used to love mealtimes and feeding these girls. And now I do again!

Cross your fingers it lasts a while.

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